LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – On the last day of hurricane season there is some good news. Hurricane Hunter planes have a new place to call home.
Lakeland Linder Regional Airport has been chosen as the new main base for NOAA’s aircraft fleet.
The move comes after MacDill Air Force Base did not renew a lease with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters. “MacDill has other needs right now. We have been fortunate to be there for 24 years. They have 8 tankers and 400 people coming in and they didn’t receive any military construction money. We understand their requirements, and it gave us a better opportunity to look elsewhere,” said NOAA Captain, Mike Silah.
Bids came down to Lakeland and the St. Pete Clearwater Airport. “The decision came down to cost.Lakeland had the most competitive bid,” Silah said.
The deal will increase revenues at the Lakeland Linder Airport by 15-20 percent. It will also bring nearly $13 million to the city over ten years. “This is a game changer for us,” Lakeland Linder Airport Director Gene Conrad said.
The NOAA’s two Lockheed WP-3D Orion “hurricane hunter” aircraft, together with NOAA’s Gulfstream IV-SP, significantly enhance the understanding of hurricanes and improve the accuracy of tropical cyclone forecasts.
They are equipped with tail Doppler radar and the ability to deploy weather data-gathering probes.
NOAA’s light aircraft operate nationwide. NOAA’s Beechcraft King Air, Gulfstream Jet Prop Commander and De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft support marine mammal population studies, shoreline change assessments, water resource and snow surveys, air chemistry studies, remote sensing projects and emergency response.
NOAA also operates unmanned aircraft systems used to observe marine life, seabirds and their habitat.
Lakeland will serve as the main base for NOAA’s Aircraft Operations starting May 1, 2017 through a 10-year lease agreement. Lakeland Linder Regional Airport will house nine aircraft as home of the Aircraft Operations Center including:
- 2 Lockhead WP-3D O’Rions (Hurricane Hunter)
- 1 Gulfstream 4 –SP
- 4 De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft
- 1 Beechcraft King Air
- 1 Gulfstream Jetprop Commander
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